Spotted turtle
Clemmys guttata
ITIS Species Code:   173771         NatureServ Element Code:   ARAAD02010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

33.6 %
4.3 %
17.3 %
4.8 %
8.1 %
1.9 %
16.9 %
1.2 %
3.9 %
7.2 %
7.2 %
0.2 %
0.2 %

67.1 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

4.3 %
0.5 %
2.5 %
0.6 %
1.0 %
0.2 %
2.2 %
0.1 %
0.5 %
< 0.1 %
0.9 %
< 0.1 %
87.0 %

8.5 %
Found in shallow bodies of water providing aquatic vegetation and a soft substrate, such as bogs, fens, marshes, the edges of bays, tidal inlets (Ernst et al. 1994), wet meadows and pastures, swamps, and small streams (Martof et al. 1980).

Mating occurs in the water. Nests are dug in well-drained, sunny areas such as grass tussocks, hammocks of sphagnum moss, and marshy pastures. Forages in the water. Burrows into mud or under vegetation to sleep or else sleeps in the burrow of another animal. In some parts of its range, spends considerable time on land (Ernst et al. 1994).


Mostly unpolluted, small, shallow bodies of water such as small marshes, marshy pastures, bogs, fens, woodland streams, swamps, small ponds, and vernal pools; also occurs in brackish tidal streams. Ponds surrounded by relatively undisturbed meadow or undergrowth are most favorable. Favors waters with soft bottom and aquatic vegetation. Often basks along water's edge, on brush piles in water, and on logs or vegetation clumps. May spend much time on land in some areas during certain seasons. When inactive, hides in bottom mud and detritus, or in muskrat burrow. Cold season hibernation occurs in the muddy bottoms of waterways in communal hibernacula. Hibernacula usually have water depths of 55 to 95 cm (22 to 37 in) with a slow but steady flow or drift of water through densely vegetated wetlands with a deep, soft, mucky substrate (Carroll, pers. comm.). Muskrat burrows in Pennsylvania were used as winter hibernacula, nocturnal sleeping sites, refugia from danger, and estivation sites during the warm dry months (Ernst 1976). In Massachusetts, radio-tagged individuals hibernated in red maple-sphagnum swamps, then moved in late March to upland vernal pools, where they spent 3-4 months, then left the pools in August and spent 4-14 days in secluded terrestrial sites, then completed the move back to the swamps in August (Graham 1995). Eggs are laid in well-drained soil of marshy pasture, in grass or sedge tussock or mossy hummock, in open area (e.g., dirt path or road) at edge of thick vegetation, or similar site in sun. Sandy, sparsely vegetated strips and washouts along agricultural field edges are favorable for nesting (Carroll, pers. comm.).

New Hampshire: deep-muck, densely vegetated scrub-shrub swamp or emergent marsh habitats that are edgewaters or backwaters of low-gradient reaches of permanent streams with moderate to slow flowages, and water depth of 10 to 50 cm (Carroll, pers. comm.). Rhode Island: reported from salt marshes and small bogs or ponds with adjacent dry upland oak-pine forest (DeGraaf and Rudis 1983). Florida: woodland or meadow streams with sphagnum. Indiana: thoroughly aquatic, said to inhabit bogs by Smith (1961); also has been collected in shallow inlets of lakes, grassy marshes, drainage ditches, and woodland ponds, and is rarely found in flowing water (Minton 1972). Maine: unpolluted, small, shallow wetlands surrounded by dense vegetation such as slow streams, ponds, vernal pools, bog ponds, roadside ditches, and wet meadows (Hunter et al. 1992). Vermont: areas of highbush blueberry/red maple swamps, and in kettle basin shrub swamps (Fichtel, pers. comm.). The length breeding season extends from March to May, with most egg-laying in June.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
3 Tidal Marsh Fresh and brackish tidal marshes, including cord grass, wild rice, sawgrass and needlerush alliances. Brackish Marsh, Interdune pond, Maritime wet grassland
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
380 Coastal Plain Fresh Water Emergent Emergent vegetation in fresh water seepage bogs, ponds and riverbeds of the coastal plain. Includes alliances dominated by sedges, eelgrass, as well as cane found in unforested cane-brakes. Small Depression Pond, Sandhill Seep, Floodplain Pool, Unforested Floodplain Canebrake, Riverscour Prairies, Vernal Pools
173 Coastal Plain Riverbank Shrubs Shrub dominated riverbanks, commonly dominated by willows and/or alders. Sand and Mud Bar
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
15 Seepage and Streamhead Swamps Includes extensive peat flats in the coastal plain, dominated by swamp tupelo, maples, and Atlantic white cedar alliances. In the sandhills includes streamhead pond pine and bay forests alliances. Saturated hydrology. Bay Forest, Small Depression Pocosin, Streamhead Atlantic White Cedar Forest, Streamhead Pocosins
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
238 Piedmont/Mountain Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Seasonally to permanently flooded areas with aquatic vegetation. Waterlily, pondweed, hydrilla smartweed are a few of the species that can occur. Piedmont/Mountain Semipermanent Impoundment (in part)
239 Piedmont/Mountain Emergent Vegetation Emergent vegetation of all wetland hydrologies. Sites would commonly support species such as tussock sedge, rushs, and cattail alliances. Rocky Bar and Shore (in part)
267 Riverbank Shrublands Riverside shrubs with temporarily flooded hydrologies. Found in the both the Mountains and Piedmont. Containing dominants such as smooth alder and a Carolina or black willows. Sand and Mud Bar
269 Floodplain Wet Shrublands Saturated shrublands of the Piedmont, includes buttonbush, swamp-loosestrife, decodon and alders. Piedmont/mountain Semipermanent Impoundment
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
8 Open water Open water without aquatic vegetation. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude all land greater than 200 meters from an open water feature.
Exclude all water greater than 200 meters from land.
Exclude salt water habitats.
Merkle, D. A. 1975. A taxonomic analysis of the CLEMMYS complex (Reptilia:Testudines) utilizing starch gel electrophoresis. Herpetologica 31:162-166.

Ernst, C.H. 1976. Ecology of the Spotted Turtle, Clemmys guttata (Reptilia, Testudines, Testudinidae), in southeastern Pennsylvania. J. Herpotol., 10(1):25-33.

Lovich, J. E. 1988. Geographic variation in the seasonal activity cycle of spotted turtles, CLEMMYS GUTTATA. J. Herpetol. 22:482-485.

Bickham, J. W., T. Lamb, P. Minx, and J. C. Patton. 1996. Molecular systematics of the genus CLEMMYS and the intergeneric relationships of emydid turtles. Herpetologica 52:89-97.

Herkert, J. R., editor. 1992. Endangered and threatened species of Illinois:status and distribution. Vol. 2:Animals. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. iv + 142 pp.

Hunter, M. L., J. Albright, and J. Arbuckle. 1992. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Maine. Maine Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 838. 188 pp.

Fichtel, C. Vermont Nongame and Natural Heritage Program. Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. 103 S. Main St. Waterbury, VT 05671-0501. (802) 241-3700.

Klemens, M. W. 1993. Amphibians and reptiles of Connecticut and adjacent regions. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 112. xii + 318 pp.

Ernst, C. H., R. W. Barbour, and J. E. Lovich. 1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. xxxviii + 578 pp.

Smith, D. W. 1961. The amphibians and reptiles of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 28(1)1-298.

McDowell, S. B. 1964. Partition of the genus CLEMMYS and related problems in the taxonomy of the aquatic testudinidae. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 143:239-279.

Ernst, C. H., and R. W. Barbour. 1972. Turtles of the United States. Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington. x + 347 pp.

Minton, S. A., Jr. 1972. Amphibians and reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy Science Monographs 3. v + 346 pp.

Martof, B. S., W. M. Palmer, J. R. Bailey, and J. R. Harrison, III. 1980. Amphibians and reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 264 pp.

DeGraaf, R. M., and D. D. Rudis. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of New England. Habitats and natural history. Univ. Massachusetts Press. vii + 83 pp.

Iverson, J. B. 1991. Patterns of survivorship in turtles (order Testudines). Canadian J. Zoology 69:385-391.

Lovich, J. E., et al. 1991. Relationships among turtles of the genus CLEMMYS (Reptilia, Testudines, Emydidae) as suggested by plastron scute morphology. Zoologica SCripta 20:425-429.

Ernst, C.H. 1972. Clemmys guttata. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. SSAR NO. 124:1-2.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853